2016 Community Read

The 2016 Centre County Reads/CALS Community Read joins forces with the Richards Civil War Era Center to bring Karen Abbott’s Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy to the Penn State community, and features an exciting schedule of events, including a CALS-sponsored writing contest, a roundtable discussion, and an opportunity to hear from the featured author.  Please find details for these events below.  And make sure to check out the website of our partner, Centre County Reads, for a complete rundown of the community read events! All events are free and open to the public.

2015-2016 CALS undergraduate intern Adison Godfrey's review of Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy in the Centre Daily Times and her WPSU BookMark review to come.


Centre County Reads Kick-Off: Imagining Our Civil War Past
February 20 | 2-5 pm
Centre County Library’s Historical Museum (203 North Allegheny Street, Bellefonte)

Thrill your inner-spy with code-breaking activities for kids and explore a wide selection of Civil War artifacts and regalia with objects on loan from both Centre County and Mifflin County Historical Societies, including 1860s era dress reproductions – like the clothing the worn by the women of Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy. Then, learn about Civil War era artillery from Penns Valley reenactor Jimmy Brown and enjoy live, period music performed by pianist William Peightel on a rare 1890 Steinway grand piano.




Featured presentations:

  • 2:30pm - discussion about local Civil War history with emphasis on the women of Centre County with Julianne Hermann of The Civil War Roundtable
  • 3:30pm - 148th Company C Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Civil War reenactment, featuring a mock trial of a female spy, complete with audience participation

Note: Curious about your family’s own Civil War story? The Pennsylvania Room will be open for genealogy research from 10:00am to 2:00pm on the day of the kickoff event.

This event is free and open to the public.
For more information, visit the Centre County Reads website.


"Secret Writing" Contest
Deadline, March 1, 2015

This contest is a part of the 2016 Centre Country Reads/CALS Community Read of bestselling author Karen Abbott’s Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy.  Abbott’s work of historical nonfiction recounts the Civil War through the eyes of four different women whose intrepidity leads to daring exploits, including smuggling secrets across enemy lines.  Using beauty, brains, and carefully cultivated identities, the women of Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy defy social conventions to become vital assets that influence the course of the war.

Enter your best “secret writing”—7,500 words or less—whether writing in secret or writing of secrets, in one of the following categories:

  • Short Fiction
  • Nonfiction
  • Poetry
  • Entry for a Writer Under 18

$200 Grand Prize and additional prizes for winners in each category

Entries due by March 1

Send your entry to cals@psu.edu.

Please include a cover letter with your name, address, contact information, a brief biography and contest category.  Winning entries to be displayed at Schlow Centre Region Library and www.cals.la.psu.edu.  View our winners and read the winning entries in Poetry, Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Under-18 here.

Re-Imagining the Civil War: Gender Roles and the Ethics of History
March 1, 2016 | 3:30 p.m.-5:00 p.m.
Mann Assembly Room, Penn State Pattee-Paterno Library

Drawing upon first-hand accounts, diaries, and letters, Karen Abbott’s Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy re-writes the stories of four incredible, real-life women, exploring their active participation during the Civil War from both Union and Confederate perspectives.  In this roundtable discussion, three invited panelists will use Abbott’s book as a touchstone for a broader discussion about the responsibilities of history, the investigation of female participation in a changing cultural, wartime landscape, and its intersections with literary fact and fiction. Following their opening statements, the panelists will invite questions from the audience.

Featured Panelists:

  • Elizabeth Young, Carl M. and Elsie A. Small Professor of English at Mount Holyoke College.  Young is the author of Disarming the Nation: Women’s Writing and the American Civil War and Black Frankenstein: The Making of an American Metaphor. In addition to her work in nineteenth-century American literature, her research draws from feminist theory and visual culture and analyzes the intersections of gender, race and sexuality.
  • Amy Greenberg, Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of History and Women’s Studies at Pennsylvania State University. Greenberg is the author of four books on antebellum American history, including, most recently, A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln, and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico. Her work focuses on the transformation of gender roles, as well as partisan politics and the growth of American empire before the Civil War.
  • Craig Warren, Associate Professor of English and Professional Writing at Penn State–Behrend. Warren has published two books on the Civil War Era, The Rebel Yell: A Cultural History and Scars to Prove It: The Civil War Soldier and American Fiction. He also founded and edits the Ambrose Bierce Project, a digital humanities project and electronic journal.

Members of the general public welcome—light refreshments will be served!

Part of the slate of events for the 2016 Centre County Reads/CALS Community Read of Karen Abbott’s book Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy.

An Evening with Karen Abbott
March 16, 2015 | 7:00 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
Penn State HUB Robeson Auditorium

Immerse yourself in a world of intrigue and adventure as best-selling author Karen Abbott shares the stories of four American women who helped shape the Civil War.

Karen Abbott in the best-selling author of several award-winning books, including Sin in the Second City, American Rose, and Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy.

Book signing to follow.


FREE and open to the public; no registration necessary. Visitor Parking: HUB Parking Deck (next to the HUB on Shortlidge Road).


Centre County Reads is sponsored by CALS, Centre County Library and Historical Museum, the Pennsylvania Center for the Book, The Richards Civil War Era Center, and Schlow Centre Region Library. We also offer special thanks to our 2016 partners: AAUW, WPSU, The Centre Daily Times, Barnes & Noble, and the Schlow Library Foundation.